Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood--Port Kells to participate in the debate this evening.
Very few topics that come up for debate in this place are more important than democracy. The debate this evening is about the very heart of the democratic process itself, the free and fair election of a nation's leader.
We are all watching the drama in Ukraine unfold before us. What began a few weeks ago with the first round of presidential elections has brought us to today with tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens in Independent Square and elsewhere demanding that their democratically chosen president be recognized.
Most of us understand the background here. The media has provided ample coverage of the events in Ukraine over the past number of days. The first round of elections was strongly criticized for falling below international standards for free and fair elections. International observers, including Canadians, warned that this run-off round had been even worse.
Among the international observers on the ground in Ukraine were our own colleagues, the member for Edmonton East and the member for Etobicoke Centre as well as David Collenette and other former members who have called the results everything from outright robbery to outright theft and fraud.
This situation is very disturbing. Democracy is a fragile thing. In order for it to succeed, it requires a kind of social contract. It requires that all the participants agree to be bound by the results regardless of who wins. The key to this wonderful process is that in addition to everyone agreeing to be bound by the results, everyone must be assured that the process is free, fair and open.
We may not give it a great deal of extra thought here in Canada, but running free, fair and open elections is not as easy as it sounds. All we have to do is think back to the 1995 referendum in Quebec to remind ourselves just how important each and every vote is and how important it is that the process be seen to be legitimate.
We are hearing reports of all manners of abuse in Ukraine. We are hearing of ballot box stuffing, widespread abuse of absentee ballots, large scale busing of voters to other districts, the use of pens with disappearing ink, the use of acid in ballot boxes to destroy ballots, militia stationed inside polling places in contravention of election laws, attempts to substitute fake ballot boxes, and the list goes on. We are also hearing about 100% turnouts in other districts which were outside the bounds of the statistical mean.
It is abundantly clear from enough different and impartial sources, both Canadian and international, that there is no way in which we can interpret the results of the Ukrainian presidential election as anything but unacceptable.
There is an important point to be made here about these observers. As David Collenette noted this afternoon in an interview from London on CBC Newsworld, the observers have no preference for either candidate. They have no job at stake, they have nothing to gain or lose, and no power hangs in the balance for them. Their only interest is in seeing that the process is conducted fairly and openly without interference, and that the result can be said to be legitimate, regardless of the outcome.
In other words, their only job was to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs down on how the mechanics of the election was run. In this case it is pretty clear that it was a thumbs down.
I would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for making it perfectly clear to us this afternoon that Canada in no way recognizes the result in Ukraine. With one million Ukrainian Canadians watching this situation closely, many with family involved on the ground, it was important that the government send a crystal clear signal to Canada and the world that we stand with the Ukrainian people and their desire for a free, open and fair electoral result.
This is about more than a stolen election however. The implications of the results in this situation have global implications. As my colleagues have noted, we are concerned that the process in Ukraine could have consequences well beyond Ukraine itself.
After over a decade of steady progress in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, we have observed that the trend is toward greater democracy and integration with the rest of the world.
There is a hope for reform of institutions at all levels in the wider region as a whole. It is clear from all available evidence that the citizens of Ukraine themselves agreed and were expressing their will to continue the move in that direction.
This result is clearly an attempt by the sitting prime minister to reverse that trend by manipulating the process to get himself elected president. Rather than embrace democracy by campaigning fairly and openly for the position, this pretender has attempted to subvert the process and steal the election.
The truly sad thing about the state of affairs is that it is the nation and the people of Ukraine who will ultimately suffer. Their desire for a better and more prosperous future either as part of the European Union or simply as a more advanced and stable democracy is in serious jeopardy.
At this point we do not yet know what the consequences for Ukraine will be, but if the situation is unresolved the fallout could be very serious indeed.
World opinion has largely condemned the results. The European leaders are unanimous as is the United States that these results are unacceptable. All have warned Ukraine that unless the results are overturned and an acceptable solution is found, Ukraine will find itself isolated and alone.
In addition to the damage this is doing to Ukraine and its reputation this could have serious repercussions for Russia as well. It is clear that Russian President Putin has allied himself with the side accused of orchestrating the electoral fraud. Far from being the bad old days of the Soviet era, this is supposed to be the new and enlightened era for the former Soviet Union.
President Putin himself was democratically elected by a fairly comfortable margin and the world congratulated him for it at the time. However, indicating his preference as he has done, President Putin risks putting in jeopardy his own country's fragile economy as well as its standing in world affairs. I would think that Russia has enough internal problems of its own that it would scrupulously avoid passing judgment or try to influence the elections of its neighbour.
I am glad that Canada is taking a stand on this very important issue. This is the time to defend the core principles of democracy that we hold so dear. We cannot permit the fragile seed of democracy that has taken hold in eastern Europe to be uprooted and destroyed by the base desires of a small group.
As I said earlier, this is about more than Ukraine. This is about democracy and how we view it. This is about whether we as Canadians are willing to stand with Ukrainians and defend their right to choose their own leaders. This is about whether Canada is willing to stand with the world community in condemning the conduct of this election. This is about whether we are willing to do more than pay lip service to the cause of democracy. This is as much about who we are as democrats as it is about democracy in Ukraine.
To the more than one million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, I urge them to keep the faith and let their relatives in Ukraine know they are not alone. Let them know that Canada stands with them in deploring the outcome of this election.
To our own government, I again say thank you for taking a stand on this very important issue. The House stands with the government and we support its efforts to find a solution that recognizes the democratic will of the Ukrainian people.